Oh, Maureen

Dear Maureen,

When I got the first e-mail--from a friend who was in a show we had both been involved in--I couldn't believe what I was reading: that you, an artist who has drawn inspiration from the gay community with your paintings of drag queens, you who have been shown in galleries owned by gay dealers, you who have reviewed exhibitions by gay and lesbian artists (myself included) could have donated $1000 in support of California's Prop 8, the vote that would take away the hard-won right of gays to marry in the state of California.

But the story was all too true. In that friend's e-mail there was a link to a story in the Daily News, which was based on public information. When a reporter called you on the facts, you responded with a cavalier "So?"
Then in , a journal of the lower Hudson Valley, you defended your actions saying, ". . . regard for individual gay persons does not require assent to a politicized assault on bedrock social reality and the common good." You know, that sounds suspiciously like that pre-Civil Rights Era excuse, I like my black maid but I don't think black people should vote, or I have Jewish friends but, really, they shouldn't expect to have the same rights as Christians. It would be an assault on the common good.

Oh, Maureen. Wouldn't you be horrified if someone you know said those things--and then they sent $1000 to the KKK? Or a neo-nazi group? .

You certainly have the right to feel as you do. You even have the right to act as you did. But having done so publicly, you have opened yourself to public opprobrium. The grave ungood you have done is not only to us, lesbians and gays who expect no less than full civil rights in our own country, but ironically to your own art career. Unless you don't mind showing at Reverend Rick's or perhaps at Brigham Young University. (Edward Winkleman has called it Biting the Hand That Feeds You.) Other comments are here and here .)

I'm not sure how you redress this situation. Perhaps you don't wish to redress it at all. But there are some good lesbian and gay organizations that would benefit from $1000 donations. Here are a few:

. Astraea Foundation: This organization funds political and cultural projects for lesbians. Two cultural projects are the Astraea Visual Arts Fund , which recognizes the work of contemporary lesbian visual artists within the U.S.; and the Lesbian Writers Fund, Lesbian Writers Fund, which supports lesbian poets and fiction writers within the U.S.

. The Leslie Lohman Gay Art Foundation, based in New York City, which has been supporting gay male art for over five decades

. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in New York City, an organization that supports the political, legal, arts, health and family needs of New York City's LGBT community

. NYC Pride, the organization that supports the gay pride parades from which you have found countless subjects to paint

I'm writing this letter to you here on my blog because I know you'll see it. Besides, in one of those links I noted above, I saw that someone had given out your e-address. I'm guessing you've got quite a lot of e-mail to deal with right now.

Your lesbian friend,




Anonymous said...

Brava Joanne! Very well put. And Maureen, it's not just gays and lesbians that are appalled. When you threaten the civil rights of one group, everyone's rights are at risk.

There was a time, not very long ago, definitely in your lifetime, when people of different races couldn't marry each other. Sounds outrageous now, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

I never heard of Maureen Mullarkey but feel certain that the adage about any publicity being good publicity won't hold true this time.

In a world with so many opportunities to do good, to spread kindness and affection, Mullarkey sours the milk of human kindness.

Nancy Natale said...

Good for you, Joanne! I saw this item in the Gay USA News summary and was astonished that anyone could have the absolute gall to do such a thing and then brazenly defend it. What a complete jerk. I hope she gets hers.

And I'll sign this, a lesbian married under the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and we should all be so civilly defended one of these days,

Joanne Mattera said...

Bless you, all three of you!

Anonymous said...

I would like to reiterate what Oriane wrote - it's not just the gay and lesbian community that is more than appalled, it's every community!

Kudos to you Joanne for writing this letter in an open forum.

Anonymous said...

If something happens in politics, you can be sure it was planned that way

Hrag said...

It is horrible....go Joanne!

Tim McFarlane said...

I was amazed to hear this situation last week. Good for you for making a strong public comment.

Admin said...

Thank you for making this message public, Joanne.

I'm a Calif resident, and the passage of Prop 8 is embarrassing and wrong. The day will come will it will be reversed.


Pretty Lady said...

Thank you, Joanne.

regard for individual gay persons does not require assent to a politicized assault on bedrock social reality and the common good.

I'd like to address this quote directly, on its own merits.

The fact is, Maureen, 'bedrock social reality' includes committed, responsible, monogamous gay relationships, and it has for some time. My aunt and her partner are one of those couples; some women whom I've known since elementary school are others; colleagues, co-workers, clients and friends are still others. The struggles they undergo in their relationships are no different from those of straight couples, except for the added stress of having no legal protections when adversity strikes. Far from being a 'politicized assault,' Proposition 8 was an attempt to bring the law into congruence with social reality. No 'common good' is being assaulted by endowing gay couples with the same legal rights as heterosexual partners, and many egregious wrongs may be righted by doing so.

From looking at your work after reading your words, I'm guessing that you regard homosexuals as freaks who are unsuited to be responsible for families, particularly children. Am I right? You see and appreciate the flamboyant, trangressive aesthetics of 'gay pride' events, and you regard this as incompatible with the love, responsibility and stability required for raising a family.

Maureen, gay pride parades are not the sum total of gay experience. That's just acting out. For the majority of people in the parade, it's a once-a-year deal, if not a once-in-a-lifetime escapade. Yes, there are some gay people who lead promiscuous, irresponsible lifestyles--just as large numbers of straight people do, particularly young ones--but those, by and large, aren't the ones getting married. Gay people who marry are just people. And it is incompatible with both American civic values and spiritual ones to treat some people as second-class citizens.

In fact, Maureen, it's shocking to me that you make no defense of your position except the above unsupported assertion; most anti-gay-marriage advocates at least have some sort of religious or logical argument to support their position. A sound conservative Christian case for gay marriage is posted here, in case that's part of your reasoning process, but it doesn't seem as though it is. As far as I can tell, you don't seem to have thought this through on any deeper level at all.

If you have, we'd really like to hear what your reasoning is. Because at the moment, it really looks like you deserve all the abuse you're getting.

Anonymous said...

Maureen Mullarkey's depiction of the gay/lesbian, transgender community is neither offensive or nor deprecating. In her words it is a "truthful investigation" grounded in an absence of judicial prejudice.
It is unfortunate for the aforementioned community that the sympathetic rendering of her subjects has no counterpart in her left-brained political leanings. By contributing financially and now publically to the supression of an already underserved and marginalized segment of our country she has outed herself as the plantation owner rather than the abolitionist.
However, there is an important distinction to be made between expose and serious reportage. One does not necessarily have to endorse the subject one chooses to portray to a population with varied life experiences and belief systems. Mullarkey's assertion that the support of gay marriage is " assault...on the common good." does indeed put her between a rock and a hard place. In so far as there is bias attached to every attempt to depict a subject "realistically" Mullarkey's pseudo endorsement of the gay/lesbian/trans community via her paintings has become, at best, a bipolar "gaze" and at worst a slap in the face. On her website she responds to an interviewer's question about different ways of being truthful in the affirmative.
It will be interesting to see now what truths will out.